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Helping Renew Ontario's Electricity System

Archived Backgrounder

Helping Renew Ontario's Electricity System

The Niagara Tunnel Project is helping Ontario's economy turn the corner and ensure a clean, renewable and modern electricity system that Ontarians can rely on for generations.

Niagara Tunnel Project

The Niagara Tunnel Project is one of many projects recently built or currently underway that are transforming Ontario's electricity system.

The project will divert water from the Niagara River and carry it to the Niagara Falls generating stations. When complete, it will allow Ontario Power Generation to increase output at the Sir Adam Beck generating stations by about 1.6 billion kilowatt-hours. This means power for approximately 160,000 homes. The tunnel mining began on Sept. 1, 2006 and construction is expected to be complete in 2013.

Benefits of waterpower

Ontario has been generating renewable power from water - hydroelectric power - for more than 100 years. It is clean, renewable, cost-effective and has a number of additional advantages:

  • It is one of the most efficient energy technologies
  • It can respond to sudden changes in energy needs
  • Waterpower plants generally have long life cycles - usually 75 to 100 years or more
  • Projects create opportunities for economic development in remote communities

Waterpower in Ontario

Water power from clean hydroelectric facilities including Niagara Falls accounted for about 20 per cent of the electricity generated in Ontario in 2010. There are currently more than 150 waterpower facilities province-wide, with a total installed capacity of more than 8,100 megawatts, able to produce enough electricity each year to power more than three million Ontario homes.

Since October 2003, more than 100 megawatts of new and refurbished waterpower projects have come online - enough power for about 50,000 homes. This includes:

  • Lac Seul Generating Station, a 12.5 MW facility near Ear Falls
  • Mississippi River Power Corporation's 4.6 MW Almonte Lower Falls Re-Development near the town of Mississippi Mills (near Ottawa)
  • OPG's new 6 MW unit at Healey Falls, a 15.7 MW facility near Campbellford, east of Peterborough
  • OPG's Upper Mattagami stations (34 MW) began operating last year
  • OPG's Hound Chute station (9.5 MW) began operating in December 2010

Construction is underway at OPG's Lower Mattagami project to redevelop four hydroelectric stations to add almost 440 MW of new capacity - enough power for more than 300,000 homes. It is the largest hydroelectric project in Northern Ontario in 40 years and will create 800 construction jobs in northeastern Ontario. Overall, more hydroelectric power will be added to Ontario's electricity system in the next eight years than over the previous 40 years.

Building a Clean Energy Future

In addition to investments in waterpower, Ontario is bringing on more sources of clean energy supply from wind, solar and bioenergy.

  • Since 2009, Ontario has attracted more than $20 billion in private-sector investment in the clean energy sector.
  • Ontario leads Canada in solar capacity and has the third-largest capacity in North America, after California and New Jersey. Ontario is currently home to the world's largest operational solar photovoltaic farm located in Sarnia.
  • In 2003, Ontario had only 10 wind turbines. Today the province has more than 900 wind turbines and is home to Canada's four largest wind farms.
  • Ontario had no commercial solar projects online in 2003. Today more than 5,000 small-scale solar projects are connected to the grid.
  • By the end of 2014, Ontario will replace dirty coal-fired generation with clean energy, which is comparable to removing up to 7 million cars off Ontario's roads.
  • Ontario's Feed-in Tariff program is the most comprehensive program of its kind in North America. It has attracted over $13 billion of private sector investment.
  • Since 2009, more than 30 businesses have announced they are setting up or expanding plants to manufacture parts for the solar and wind industry.
  • So far, Ontario's Long-Term Energy Plan has helped create 20,000 jobs and is on the way to creating 60,000 jobs by the end of 2012.

Big Becky Facts

  • The Big Becky tunnel boring machine is 150 metres long and weighs about 4,000 tonnes - that's more than 800 elephants.
  • The tunnel is as high as a four-storey building.
  • The tunnel will propel water at a rate of 500 cubic metres per second, fast enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in a matter of seconds.
  • Strabag AG was selected to design and construct the tunnel through a competitive international bidding process.
  • Students from Port Weller Public School in St. Catharines won a local contest to name the tunnel boring machine. It was named Big Becky in honour of Sir Adam Beck, who was instrumental in establishing public power in Ontario.
  • When the Sir Adam Beck 1 power plant in Niagara Falls was completed in 1925, it was the largest generating station in the world.

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